Hockey notes spillover: Ian Laperriere still ailing, new helmet making inroads
So many notes, so little space. Here are some notes that didn’t fit into my weekly NHL column.
The Kings staged a nice ceremony Saturday honoring former team captain Mattias Norstrom, though you have to hope the coffee maker they gave him will run on European electric currents -- and that he checks that before he lugs it back to Stockholm.
One of the bonuses of the event was seeing and chatting with Ian Laperriere, who helped honor his former teammate.
Laperriere would rather have been playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, but doctors ordered him to sit out this season because of post-concussion symptoms. He suffered a bruise on his brain and massive facial cuts last spring when he took a shot in the face during the Flyers’ playoff series against the New Jersey Devils, but he so badly wanted to participate in the team’s Stanley Cup fun that he persuaded team doctors to let him play.
He didn’t feel good over the summer or at training camp, and skating a few strides Saturday at Staples Center, his first venture onto the ice in six weeks, left him uncomfortable.
“The lights and everything irritated me quite a bit and when you’re out there, that’s all it is. Light and movement. That’s why I can’t deal with it,” he said. “Regular stuff, I’m fine with my kids at home.
"One of my biggest fears is not if, it’s when I’m going to get hit again. The way I play it’s a matter of time. Punches or hits or anything. I’ve got to be smart about that.
“Last year was different. I got caught in the moment. I lied to be part of the Stanley Cup run. I was lucky enough not to get hit again.”
Laperriere, who will be 37 in January, said that on a scale of one to 10, his ache over missing hockey “is 15 out of 10.” But returning to the ice is not his focus.
“Right now I just want to feel better. To tell you the truth, I don’t even think about doing that. I just want to feel myself again for my family,” he said. “If I was 22, I’d probably have a different speech right now but if it’s it, then I played a long time. I had a great time and met a lot of great people. Right now I go day by day.”
Let’s hope Laperriere, a fan favorite everywhere he has played, makes a full recovery and enjoys a long and healthy life with his wife and two sons.
Nothing can completely guard players against concussions, but a new helmet called the M11 that’s designed to minimize impact and absorb the linear forces that cause traumatic head injuries is gaining a foothold in the hockey equipment market.
The helmet is named for Mark Messier, who wore No. 11 throughout his Hall of Fame career. It was developed as part of The Messier Project, which includes education about concussions and public awareness events at all levels of the game.
Concussions are a huge issue in the NHL, and a recent symposium at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota drew more than 250 doctors and concussion experts. They concluded that the culture about blows to the head must change and caution must be exercised in dealing with head injuries from the youngest ages and upward.
The M11 helmet itself has a different liner from most helmets in that it’s not foam based. The helmet also fits closer to the head.
“The fit is huge. We’re trying to get a 360 degree fit,” said Mary-Kay Messier, Mark’s sister and vice president of business development for the manufacturer, Cascade Sports in Liverpool, N.Y. “Mostly what absorbs the impact is the liner, not the shell.”
Mark Messier works with the company in an advisory role focusing on education about concussions. Mary-Kay Messier said the helmet’s use has been trending from the grassroots up rather than the pros downward, with many prep, high school and youth hockey leagues trying it.
A handful of NHL players wear it, including defenseman Willie Mitchell and winger Kevin Westgarth of the Kings. Westgarth has given it the fisticuff test and is a satisfied customer.
“I actually was given it to try a couple years ago and kind of liked it,” he said. “It’s supposed to be great for impacts and help as much as you can with concussions because it tightens around instead of just front to back.
“It’s stayed on my head during some fights, so it’s done pretty well that way. It won’t let the hair flow sometimes, but I guess I’d rather take the punches off the helmet than my head. So it seems to be doing the trick.”
He compared it favorably to other helmets he has worn.
“The tightening around helps,” he said. “The whole goal is not to notice anything new. I like it.”